Are trolls & bots going to destroy Twitter?
Twitter is afraid they might and it’s imposing – yet again – new measures to keep them at bay.
Everyone’s favorite micro-blog announced February 7 it is rolling out its toughest tools yet to limit the ability of trolls to abuse other Twitter users. Measures taken in the past, even as recently as November, have not yet limited the harassment.
“We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic,” wrote Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice-president of engineering. “That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices. We won’t tolerate it and we’re launching new efforts to stop it.
“Building on the work we began in November, we’re continuing to work on ways to give people more control over what they see on Twitter. Last week, we introduced an improvement to reporting abusive Tweets that gives people experiencing targeted harassment more ways to report it.
“Today, we’re announcing three changes: stopping the creation of new abusive accounts, bringing forward safer search results, and collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweets.”
We heard you, we didn’t move fast enough last year; now we’re thinking about progress in days and hours not weeks and months.
— Ed Ho (@mrdonut) January 31, 2017
As outlined by Ho, the three changes are aimed at eliminating abusive accounts and putting trolls in a box where they hear only their own echos:
Stopping the creation of new abusive accounts:
We’re taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts. This focuses more effectively on some of the most prevalent and damaging forms of behavior, particularly accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others.
Introducing safer search results:
We’re also working on ‘safe search’ which removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. While this type of content will be discoverable if you want to find it, it won’t clutter search results any longer. Learn more in our help center.
Collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweets:
Our team has also been working on identifying and collapsing potentially abusive and low-quality replies so the most relevant conversations are brought forward. These Tweet replies will still be accessible to those who seek them out. You can expect to see this change rolling out in the coming weeks.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to roll out product changes – some changes will be visible and some less so – and will update you on progress every step of the way,” Ho continued. “With every change, we’ll learn, iterate, and continue to move at this speed until we’ve made a significant impact that people can feel.”
Twitter’s approach in the past to curtailing harassment as been to rely on users to report abusive tweets and employ for themselves the cardinal rule of the internet: never feed the trolls.
But this approach seems – finally – more assertive, more like Twitter itself will take steps to identify and restrict the trolls and bots which exist only to harass others.
Only time will tell if these steps will be effective in controlling and limiting harassment.
But in the meantime it’s becoming more difficult all the time to identify and – refuse to feed – the millions of bots created to constantly chatter, often with deleterious results, on the Tweetscape.
Twitter is close to becoming a ubiquitous reminder of how truly atrocious behavior and just plain meanness can ruin the fun for all of us.
Maybe this time Twitter will be able to put the dunces in a corner.